Donald Penn back on board
Starting LT Donald Penn took advantage of his best option Thursday, signing his restricted free agent tender that locks him into a one-year deal with the Bucs for $2.8-million.
Penn was the only unexplained absence in last week's voluntary minicamp in Tampa, but he said he and his representative felt opting out was the prudent move.
"My agent was in contact with a couple of teams, so it wasn't smart for me to go to mini-camp without being under contract," Penn said. "Anything could happen out there."
But Penn was adamant the move shouldn't be considered a holdout.
"I want to make it clear: I wasn't holding out," he said. "That's something I want the fans to know. I'm not even that type of person."
Penn's options were extremely limited because his high-level contract tender required any team wishing to sign him as a free agent to concede one first- and third-round draft pick to the Bucs. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, enjoyed the right to match any competing offer.
But being on the market allowed Penn's agent to converse with other clubs about his chances to cash in next offseason, when he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and can sign with anyone with no strings attached.
Agent Rocky Arceneax said in an interview last week he has been assured his contract demands are within the range teams are willing to pay Penn on the open market.
But, for now, Penn is back with the team that gave the former undrafted prospect his first real shot. It was general manager Mark Dominik, then the director of pro personnel, who zeroed in on Penn when he was released from the Vikings' practice squad in 2006.
"Mr. Dominik gave me an opportunity," Penn said. "I always thought I had the ability, but I needed a chance. I'll always remember that."
His goal right right now is to work his way into optimum shape, something the coaching staff has asked of him. He's already lost some weight and believes big things are in store for 2009.
"I know this next season is going to be my best so far," Penn said. "I really believe that."